We've just returned from New Year in Athens and had a wonderful time. Despite worries about the rioting it was a great time to go and everyone was very friendly. I encourage everyone not to worry and to consider the city "open for business."
We stayed at the King George II Palace which was the perfect choice in particular because we were visiting with my mother and aunt. I've written a detailed review here on tripadvisor.
With four days in Athens we probably did less than others would cram into half the time. But part of the reason for the holiday was to spend a relaxing time together.
The National Museum is not to be missed though there is a lot to see and you can't possibly cover everything in one visit. We particularly enjoyed the pottery section with a chronological display of the emerging trends and decoration on every imaginable amphora and pot. Loved it!
As everyone has mentioned don't forget to bring your id, also if you're an EU senior or student you'll get a 50% discount on showing your passport
We walked from the hotel to the Acropolis and the Agora. It is a wonderful place to visit, the Parthenon is of course one of the most beautiful buildings though currently obscure by scaffolding. My aunt preferred looking at it from a distance. I found the entry way particularly impressive and the building conveyed the sense awe ancient pilgrims must have felt. The views of the city are panoramic. I have to say I thought it wasn't the easiest place to visit for older people as the ground was very uneven and there weren't hand rails throughout. Make sure not to miss the Agora at the bottom of the hill.
I loved the Benaki Museum. I love small museums that refelect the taste of a single collector. What a great museum. it is housed in a wonderful mansion only three blocks from Syntagma and it's a very managable. Classical works on the ground floor, interiors, costumes, images of Athens painted by foreign visitors which give a real sense of how the city has transformed. I particularly like the collections of ancient and historical jewellery, superb.
There a nice cafe on the top floor and a very good museum shop. Highly recommended.
I wanted to make it to the Cyclyadic Museum and the Benaki Islamic Art Museum but we'll have to hit them next time.
If you visit Athens over the New Year bear in mind everything all of the museums and archeological sites will be closed on Jan 1st. However, there's still lots to see. We had a lazy morning relaxing over breakfast (luckily the hotel ran breakfast for an extra hour till noon) and left for a relaxed walk in the beautiful sunshine. We walked across the square to the Parliament where we enjoyed the fascinating costumes of the guards, and then down through the Botanical Gardens to Hadrian's Gate and the Temple of Zeus which was easily to see through the gates. The Gardens were packed with Greeks out enjoying the holiday.
Walk, Walk, Walk, don't be put off by the graffitti, you'll see it in the best neighborhoods in Athens.
You can take a bus or the metro from the airport to Syntagma Square.
Be more concerned about the taxi drivers than the rioters...You may have difficulty hailing taxis on the street so have the hotel or restaurant call a radio taxi for you. There will be a small additional charge but they are generally more reliable. DO check if there is a minimum charge.
We really enjoyed Athens, particularly in the low season, I think it's a city that's underestimated by people who pass through for the day on their way somewhere else. Yes, there is lots of traffic. But there's lots to see, museums, churches, ruins...don't be put off by fear, the city is open and if it's safe enough for my 81 year old aunt and my 71 year old mother it should be fine for you too!